5 key themes from Amsterdam Dance Event 2023 - Features - Mixmag

5 key themes from Amsterdam Dance Event 2023

With 1,000 events, and 500,000 dance music fans taking to the streets of Amsterdam, we've narrowed down five key themes of this year's massive ADE edition

  • Words: Megan Townsend | Photos: Elske Nissen, Stephen VB, Linde Dorenbos, Enrique Meesters
  • 3 November 2023

It's safe to say that in its 28 edition tenure, Amsterdam Dance Event has gained a reputation for being the industry's biggest gathering — though the sheer scale of ADE is something that has to be seen, before it can truly be believed. Last month saw 500,000 people travel to The Netherland's capital from October 16 - October 20, with over 1,000 events packed into its four day run.

Glowing yellow cubes are visible on every street corner, with parties taking place everywhere from the Amsterdam tram system, to the the canal-side cafes to even the city's International Airport, Schipol, with a whopping 2,900 artists appearing to show off their skills.Takeovers from storied party brands such as DGTL, No Art, Awakenings, Into The Woods and Mixmag proved to draw in massive crowds, but of course, partying isn't the only focus of ADE — daily film screenings, workshops, exhibitions, listening events, panel discussions and more, all featured prominently in this year's edition.

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With that in mind, we have compiled five of the key themes of this year's ADE - whether you didn't make it over to Amsterdam this year, or you didn't make as much of a scratch as you were hoping to on those thousand events. We've got you covered!

1. Past, Present and Future

For 2023, ADE put a focus on the story of dance music — exploring its journey so far, the current reality and helping to both predict its future, and introduce the next generation of artists to the industry.Topics such as the heritage of clubbing, and evolution and impact of electronic labels were explored during ADE Pro panel discussions— and there were number of birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate within dance music a this year's ADE. Independent label BIP Records celebrated 15 years at Escape deLux with a number of label affiliates behind the decks, while Mixmag put on a number of events to celebrate our own 40th anniversary — including a photography exhibition at The Social Hub Amsterdam, and a panel talk on the last day of the ADE conference.

Meanwhile, a very special expo at Brakke Grond hosted a celebration of 40 years of turntable culture, which included a showcase from DMC - the world DJ championships competition, as well as interactive exhibitions documenting four decades of scratching, soundsystems and vinyl. Dizzee Rascal was on hand to mark 20 years (would you believe) of 'Boy In Da Corner', while the legendary Grandmaster Flash travelled to Amsterdam to celebrate 50 years of hip hop — with an unmissable key note titled "Birth Of A Culture." Amsterdam's Our House museum, which celebrates the history dance music all year round, put on a very special immersive exhibition for 2023 which included a visit from DJ Pierre and Paul van Dyk, and the opportunity for visitors to have a play around with some vintage hardware — such as the TR-808 and the TB-303.

Addressing the current state of dance music, were a number of panels/workshops/parties that explored the issues currently facing our dance floors. Discussions on topics such as neurodiversity, gaming, gender imbalance, creating safer spaces and climate change were all at the top of the bill — while others asked questions such as what is the relevance of music videos in dance music today? and how can we manoeuvre the use of mobile phones on the dancefloor? A number of events across the weekend helped celebrate both the past and present contributions of Black culture on dance music — such as the panel "Black Dance Music: A Conversation Across Multiple Generations", a screening of documentary Black to Techno and a rave organised in collaboration with local night Heist and US collective Black Rave Culture. Looking forward, Saturday saw an in-depth panel that explored the Future of Festivals, with a panel of experts from across the globe, while a number of panel discussions exploring emerging technologies looked at all things AI, digitalisation and the metaverse. Thursday saw an enlightening discussion on the "Future Voices of Dance Music," determining who will be the vocalists of tomorrow — while ADE's youth programme, ADE 4 Youth, hosted a series of workshops, masterclasses, gear exhibitions and more for the stars of tomorrow.

2. Off-kilter surprises

ADE once again seemingly touched on every corner of the dance music world with its eye-watering event offering, but there were still a few off-kilter suprises in-store for curious attendees, or those really looking to find their niche. This year saw a performance from Japanese composer Kensuke Ushio, famed for his anime soundtracks, that was titled "Anime in the club?" while also taking part in a panel discussion about the relationship between electronic music and anime, featuring contributions from anime platform Crunchyroll. There were a number of panel discussions on topics such as Film and television, how to prevent campsite waste, a keynote on Energy Buddhism and the world of online fan communities.

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For those in the market to learn a little something, there were masterclasses on how to make eye-grabbing merch, how to stay sane in the dance music industry, the do's and don't's of being backstage, and a workshop on flying an FPV drone. Similarly there were plenty of activities for attendees wanting to do something a little different: A queer comedy night from BOOM Chicago, the chance to look over photography from Berghain's bouncer and photographer extraordinaire Sven Marquardt, daily screenings of Who Killed the KLF, an immersive look into Dutch ballroom culture at Kanaal 40 and the ADE Golf Tournament at The international. And you thought this was just about dancing?

3. One. Thousand. Events.

As we mentioned before, there were over 1,000 events at this year's ADE festival. Yep four figures. One. Thousand. So one of the most common sights at this year's event was probably attendees in their droves, foreheads pinched, staring at the endless array of happenings available on their phone and trying to determine what their next move will be. With a staggering amount of events available, it quickly becomes apparent during your time at ADE that just heading to your local cafe for a coffee, or heading for a bite to eat, or landing at Schipol Airport, will land you at one of the events organised as part ADE. An experience in unto itself, you've never seen a city gravitate around dance music — with 500,000 people in the city for one purpose, to broaden their dance music horizons and connect with their global dancefloor community.

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With 2024's edition now confirmed, be sure to lock in your pass early — and make sure you head to the website and make a note of the programme ahead of time so you don't end up with a veritable Sophie's Choice like many ADE attendees!

4. Once in a lifetime moments

Now let's get onto the things that really made ADE 2023 special, the once-in-a-lifetime moments that simply wouldn't happen anywhere else. ADE kicked off this year with a jaw-dropping opening ceremony at the stunning Rijksmuseum, the National Museum of Amsterdam, which consisted of Breathe, Walk, Die an incredible live performance courtesy of upsammy, hosted at the iconic bicycle passage underneath the museum. ADE 2023 also saw the first EVER live interview from the elusive Claptone, as the masked DJ marked the 10th anniversary of hit single 'No Eyes' with a live performance and a conversation with BBC Radio 1's Danny Howard. An extra special B3B between Joy Anonymous, Todd Edwards and salute at Paparverweg also became one of our big "pinch me moments" during our time at ADE 2023 — while Max Cooper similarly blew our minds with his series of 3D/AV live performances at Felix Meritis.

5. Insider information

Didn't make it down to ADE this year and want to know the real thing to be gained from copping a 2024 ticket? Well, the hefty bag of insider industry information on offer at this year's edition could be a good indicator of what is in store. Experts from the likes of Google, TikTok, YouTube, Beatport and Spotify were on hand to dish out tips and tricks to manoeuvring their respective platforms, while panels from those-in-the-know on subjects such as "How the F do you run a nightclub" and "EQ secrets every producer should know" gave attendees real, tangible insight into getting their start in music.

Read this next: Amsterdam club Ponton is another top venue for the city's flourishing nightlife

ADE Lab, ADE's programming for developing artists and professionals, celebrated its sophomore outing at this year's ADE — with over 2,000 people attending workshops, tech demonstrations and masterclasses hosted by the likes of Mama Snake, Saoirse and A-Trak. All through the week, the ADE Lab studio arena invited attendees to come along with their laptops and play around with the latest music making hardware — all hosted by the SAE Institute. As part of Armada's eye-watering ADE offering, the label gave ADE attendees the opportunity to get production tips from the one-and-only Armin van Buuren, while Roland's Machine Workshop at Kanaal 40 featured a hands-on tutorial from A Guy Called Gerald.

You can now pre-register for ADE 2024 on the ADE website, here.

Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter

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